Same time, same place. July 2015, the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Muscians in the hamlet of Hancock, Maine.
There is probably no place quite like this anywhere else in the world, likewise no musical experience to match its unique combination of the formal and the informal, of carefully formatted complex musical performance and the natural forested auditorium at the end of a gravel road. Not at the end of the world, mind you. The villages and the town of Ellsworth provide a potential audience of thousands within a half-hour’s drive. Many of whom could easily fill the 400 or so folding seats in this wonderfully intimate auditorium. Too bad for them, that they missed the absolutely stunning performances given at the most recent of the weekly edition of “Wednesdays at Monteux” July 15.
Unlike the Sunday Symphony Concerts with full 40-piece orchestra, Wednesday’s are smaller productions, solos and chamber ensembles. The music is chosen by the student performers themselves, ordered from the music lending library, rehearsed once or twice only, and then performed. So great is the professionalism on display here, one would not know just by watching and listening that these are “students” of the craft. Except perhaps by their youth and the exceptional vigor with which they approach their art.
Rather, attending one of the Monteux concerts is much like having a private concert for friends in your living room. With a program of the finest, most exciting compositions ever written over the span of centuries, put on by some of the most talented musicians you are ever likely to encounter in any concert hall, anywhere in the world. All in an unadorned auditorium where no member audience is farther from the conductor than fifty feet, where the movements and facial expressions of the musicians are in full view and close enough to read.
Last night’s program included six pieces spanning the centuries from Mozart to just-composed new work, no less than three of which earned standing ovations from an appreciative audience. Among these were Vivian Balzat’s violin suite “Archipelago Suite: The Kermadec Islands” performed by the virtuoso Allion Salvador, in its northern hemisphere premiere. The piece, evocative of these remote Pacific Islands, called to mind birdlife and haunting isolation, was so lovely I wished for a recording to listen again and again, so new there is none to be had. Yet. Salvador took the stage again, with violinist Christopher Kim and pianist Jonathan Spatola-Knoll, where the two violins practically set the stage on fire with the lightning stroke finger work demanded by Pablo de Sarasate’s “Navarra, Op. 33.”
The program included a Schulhoff “Concertino for Flute, Viola, and Contrabass,” Anthony Plog’s “Four Sketches for Brass Quintet,” Yiwen Shen’s “Four Chinese Brush Paintings” in its second-ever performance, each remarkable in its own right.
Aaron Copland’s “Suite from Appalachian Spring” in its original version for thirteen instruments closed the show. You may be familiar with this piece, but you will never have heard it quite so clearly and passionately as it was played last night. That final, fading note, filled the hall with its purity, and brought a tear to more than one eye with its stunning beauty. And when it had faded away the audience leapt to its feet for one final, thunderous ovation. All of this in a concert hall so small, so informal, that each and every note seems to be played for you alone.
There were too many empty seats last night. The hall fills to overflowing for the orchestra pops concerts where the music is familiar, but the real magic is to be found in the unfamiliar, the new, the seldom performed. The concerts at Monteux are unlike any to be witnessed anywhere. For those lucky enough to be in this part of Maine in the summer, they are not to be missed.
You have a few more opportunities to take in for 2015—Wednesday July 22, and Sundays July 19 and 26—and a whole season to plan for in the next. All concerts at 7:30 p.m.
For all those—soldiers, caregivers, lost explorers, strivers of all stripes who feel overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding them—these words from T. E. Lawrence, better know these days as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ — In this passage, he is fevered, retreating from a failed attempt, half in his own mind and half without:
“Now I found myself dividing into parts. There was one which went on riding wisely, sparing or helping every pace of the wearied camel. Another hovering above and to the right bent down curiously, and asked what the flesh was doing. The flesh gave no answer, for, indeed, it was conscious only of a ruling impulse to keep on and on; but a third garrulous one talked and wondered, critical of the body’s self-inflicted labour, and contemptuous of the reason for the effort. . . .
“This spent body toiled on doggedly and took no heed, quite rightly, for the divided selves said nothing I was not capable of thinking in cold blood; they were all my natives.”
For each of us, at times life will become so hard we will wonder why we bother to keep on at it. The wondering is natural. In looking for reasons to keep on, we can look inward. We may, like Lawrence, find no reasons worthy of the name. We must, like him, understand that such questioning is only a part of the whole. It is to honor the other parts that we keep on.
The California Writers Club (San Francisco Branch) is pleased to host their fifth annual FREE WRITERS CONFERENCE on Sunday June 7, at the San Mateo County Fair. The free workshops include:
2:00–“Winners: How to polish your writing and get it out there”–Laurel Anne Hill, moderator
3:00–“Writing for Children”–Published authors Anita Volta, Prudence Brietrose, Wendy Walter. Moderator Bill Baynes
4:00–“Ask the Editors”–Q+A with Darlene Frank, Lisa Meltzer Penn, and Audrey Kalman
5:00–“Print on Demand–Publishing through CreateSpace and LightningSource”:–author and historian David Hirzel
6:00—private writing consultations for those attending
And that’s not all. The Literary stage will be hosting workshops, readings, book promotion, playwriting, children’s events, and much more throughout the entire week of the San Mateo County Fair June 6-13. See attached schedule of events, or click this link then click the link to Literary Events on the Fine Arts Stage
All this is free with Fair admission. And after the free workshops at this “event within the event,” you can visit the midway, the music on the main stage and the side stages, the show chickens in the livestock area. Such a deal!
At the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, 1346 Saratoga Dr, San Mateo, CA 94403
Fair Telephone: (650) 574-3247
If you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear—betrayal and heartbreak within family, betrayal and rebellion without—then you might recall the role of his jester, his Fool, his confidante, his source of wisdom to ignore.
Still nameless, the fool is now unemployed, and applying for work in his trade. This small conceit allows for an ever-blooming expansion of his place in Lear’s life. From that particular intimacy springs the fool’s taking on the roles, one by one, of the principals of Shakespeare’s original play: the daughters Goneril, Reagan, and Cordelia, and most powerfully that of the old king himself.
In a stunning solo performance Geoff Hoyle slips effortlessly from one to the other, veering away into powerful tangents of his and David Ford’s own making, keeping to one rule: “when Lear speaks, his lines are from Shakespeare’s play.” As Lear’s Shadow, Hoyle becomes the Fool again, commenting on what he’s seen in his forty-seven years of service with the old king, reaching back to his connections with the girls as a stand-in stepmom taking them as children to the beach.
The Fool has his own connections, his own love, his own trust about to be broken, with all of these characters. He is both inside the story, and outside it, a witness, a commentator with no real force but that of observation that only he—and, lucky us, the audience—can see.
Likewise Hoyle is both inside and outside the Fool, feeling his own sense of loss and betrayal—”What about me?”—when the power shifts, and for all his shared history with that dysfunctional family, he’s about to be left behind. There are storms marauding this tortured kingdom, blows against the empire that his strives manfully to close the door against, with only small success.
The play builds slowly from a trivial-seeming introduction, but steadily gains power with each successive scene, relieved by the Fool’s comic appearance to comment and cajole the audience. In one particularly moving scene, Hoyle as the doddering, confused Lear reaches out to one of the audience, takes his hand and spreads it against its own, comparing the fingers and the miracle of humanity. In another, the Fool strikes back literally at the king, and in an intricate bit of staging delivers and receives the blow. It is not just a physical blow. Others lie in wait, tragic in the most moving sense of the word.
Well, you’re just going to have to see it for yourself. The magic of black-box in the hands of a master of the art. It helps to be familiar with the original King Lear, but even those who are not cannot fail to be moved to this Lear’s farewell to Cordelia, the most pure and precious of his daughters.
Written and performed by Geoff Hoyle, in collaboration with David Ford.
NOW EXTENDED! June 4-27, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8pm | Saturdays at 5pm
Extended dates run Thursdays at 8pm & Saturdays at 5pm only (no Wednesdays)
80 minutes | No Intermission | 12 and up
Box Office: The Marsh
Theater: The Marsh San Francisco. 1062 Valencia St. SF 94110 415.282.3055
“Time is just nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once.”
In case of the talents producing the 24 Hour Play Festival at the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco, who needs time anyway? Twenty-four hours is such a small slice of it, here-and-gone before you know it.
Picture this: a little over twenty-four hours ago, starting at precisely 8:00 p.m. Friday night, the names of eight of the Center’s gang of playwrights were drawn out of a hat. Literally, out of a silk topper. Those eight were assigned a theme, unknown to any of them before that moment: “The Devil Made Me Do It!” Now each of the playwrights pulls the name of a director from that hat. Now each director draws the names of actors from. . . .
Deadline for script delivery: 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
No matter if the genders, ages, or other physical attributes of the actors drawn matched the requirements of the scripts. The assignments are whatever they are, and the challenge is for everyone involved to pull it off. Rehearsals begin about 9:00 a.m. Saturday. Curtain is 8:00 p.m. Saturday night, the Tides Theater in SF, one of four in the Shelton Theater building on Sutter St.
The Tides is a black box, so what curtains there are conceal the narrow space backstage. Lights. Showtime!
Now, you might think, “How can any of this be any good, given the ridiculously brief 24 hour between assignment of playwrights and the theme they are to write to?” Do not underestimate the power of theater. Although some of the participants must have day jobs, the level of professionalism on display here is truly astounding.
Eight plays making one hell-of-a-festival, each of them so memorable in its own write that it is a disservice to everyone involved to name even so much as a favorite. Here follows a bullet-point list of names. Everyone deserves a standing ovation.
“Are We There Yet?” by Lorraine Midanik, directed by Paula Barrish. Actors: Emily Marie Grant and Jason Thompson.
“The Loss Temple” by Sara Judge, directed by Charley Lerrigo. Actors: Chris Nguyen, Karly Schackne, Stephanie Whigham, Preeti Mann.
“The Lab” by Gaetana Caldwell Smith (my friend who introduced me to this marvelous evening of one-act plays), directed by Sinouhui Hinojosa. Actors: Miyoko Sakatani, Jerren V. Jones, Edith Reiner.
“Audition from Hell” by Mary Blackfore, directed by Tatiana Gelfland. Actors: John Ferreiro, Genevieve Purdue, Richard S. Sargent, Lee-Ron.
“The Latest Small Triumph of Levia Stand: by Vonn Scott Bair, directed by Ted Zoldan. Actors: Merri Gordon, Lisa Klein, Chris Maltby.
“Brothers in Arms” by Jeffrey Blaze, directed by Kris Neely. Actors: J. D. Scalzo, Alesander Delgadillo.
“Barbie Pink, Barbie Yellow. . .” by Elizabeth A. Rosenberg, directed by Nathanael Card. Actors: Roberta J. Morris, Sara Leight.
“The Dance Card” by Jacqueline E. Luckett, directed by Don Hardwick. Actors Louel Senores, Katrina Kroetch.
The offerings ranged from the farcial through insightful into truly amazing. The genuine laughs were frequent, the surprising turns of events many. If I mention “The Lab” for its black-humored look at the real problems facing coming generations, or “Brothers in Arms” for its subtle reworking of dominance in a family, it is not to diminish the amazing contributions of all the other artists at work in this phenomenal all-in-a-day work of theatrical production.
That day, for this event, has already closed. A capsule review such as this is pointless, unless it calls your attention to the next such 24-hour festival, and brings you down to witness theatrical art at one of its many highest levels.
Website: Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco
Deep inside the San Francisco Chronicle’s pages (May 15, 2015), this shocking truth is hidden, as they often are, beneath a misleading headline. The hope appears to be that no one will notice, but sharp-eyed readers of the Business Section can’t help but see the truth hidden between the lines. It appears that in 2000 CEOs were making a comfortable “525 times more than the average worker.” By 2013 this had fallen to a paltry “331 times what the average worker was paid,” but this was largely due to the 2008 recession and the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 that affected all CEO compensation.
This represented, in those dark years, a decline of 37%, with shockwaves circulating through all the dependent industries of real estate—second and third homes, view estates, and so on—as well as the subsidiary labor markets of yacht-polishers, gardeners and housecleaners, Sub-Zero refrigerator repairmen,Rolex and diamond salesmen, and so on. Not to mention sleeper-seats on transoceanic airplanes, high-rolling bets at the Vegas tables. The repercussions of this dramatic decline in CEO compensation were endless, and devastating.
Fortunately for all concerned, the 29% figure actually represents a modest improvement over the bleakest days of the recession. “Last year, the average CEO was paid $13.5 million.” Many of the headlines you will have seen call attention to the decline of workers’ buying power over the past fifteen years, but their loss is by comparison almost minimal.
Of course the overall figures of CEO compensation being 373 (for 2014) or 525 (for 2000) times the average worker do seem to be pretty positive when compared with 42 times (for 1980, the last year of the Carter administration.) But that was a long time ago, before Reagan’s “trickle-down” theory of economics.
But, take heart. 2015 is on a good start toward making up for CEO pay losses brought about by the Great Recession of 2008. The “average workers” can feel proud of the contribution they have made toward a remedy.
Other headlines from the San Francisco Chronicle for May 15, 2015:
“Malaysia turns away 800 abandoned at sea”
“Israeli court paves way for demolition of Bedouin village (“Israel says the hundred of villagers are sitting on state-owned land slated for development. . . expected to feature a hotel and a country club.”)
“Death toll rises to 72 in footwear factory fire”
“Obama pledges US will stand by [oil-rich] allies in gulf”
To quote Lily Tomlin, “”No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”
I never intended for this column to be a place to air my social-political views, but sometimes there is a point to be made, and I’m compelled to make it.
Dateline May 2-9, 2015:
From the Introduction to “The Trial of Michel Terrehaute” by David Hirzel:
“The events you are about to witness come to this stage from history. The story is true, the men you will meet the survivors of these events. The British Navy had chosen John Franklin to lead an expedition to explore venture overland through the Canadian tundra to the Arctic Ocean in the summer of 1821. These men were poorly equipped in sustenance, in clothing, and in mental capacity to withstand the rigors of that winter’s early October onset. They had run out of food with hundreds of miles yet to go to reach their winter quarters. The main party went ahead.
“Three seamen, too weak to travel farther, stayed behind to await help or to meet their maker. One of them did die, perhaps by his own hand. Or perhaps by that of fourth man, the Iroquois Indian guide stronger than the others who had stayed behind with them. Whether to help, or to murder them, will never be known.”
Michel Terrehaute, the outsider of the three, was accused and tried in absentia, and executed for crimes he was suspected of, and crimes he had yet to commit. Did an act self-preservation on their part justify what in another country would be murder?
In a short twenty-minutes, “The Trial of Michel Terrehaute” considers the larger themes of justice in a harsh and unforgiving world. One not all that different from the one in which we live today, where war and terrorism raise their ugly heads in every nation.
Fringe of Marin: http://fringeofmarin.com/